Even before the announcement of its new season, the Bayerische Staatsoper shared big news with their loyal audience and the media earlier this month. Starting in 2021 a new artistic duo will lead the way in Munich. Belgian Serge Dorny, currently director of the Opéra de Lyon will be the company’s intendant, while Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski, presently principal conductor of the London Philharmonic and former music director at Glyndebourne, will succeed Kirill Petrenko, who will become the Berlin Philharmonic’s next chief conductor.

© Wilfried Hösl

But first things – or seasons – first. To celebrate its 100th season and 200 years since the opening of the Nationaltheater, the Bayerische Staatsoper launches into its 2018-19 season with the Festwoche "Geliebt – Gehasst" (Festival Week "Loved – Hated") at the end of September. Zubin Mehta conducts the newly commissioned Drei Märchenbilder (Three Fairytale Pictures) by Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen and Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. The week also includes the ballet Anna Karenina and a Lieder matinee with Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber. The two operas performed during this opening week, Le nozze di Figaro, starring Ludovic Tézier as Count Almaviva, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, certainly give a thematic taste of what’s to come. From racial hatred to striving for power, from the rise and fall of empires and leaders to women’s rights to self-determination, the season's new productions fall under the theme “Alles was recht ist” (All things just).

The biggest new production for the Munich audience is likely to be Amélie Niermeyer’s staging of Otello, Verdi’s penultimate opera, for which Jonas Kaufmann returns to the stage in the title role after his debut at the Royal Opera in London last summer. Conducted by Kirill Petrenko, Kaufmann is joined by his regular Munich partner Anja Harteros, who sings Desdemona, and Canadian baritone Gerald Finley, who will make his stage debut as Iago.

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Chrstiane Karg is Marie in David Bösch’s production of The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana. Separated lovers, mistaken identities and schemes involving the proposed sale of Marie ensue over the course of three acts before all is made right in the end and Marie finds a happy end with her true love, Hans. Tomáš Hanus conducts this comic opera which was a benchmark of Czech nationalism at its première in 1866 – both for its use of popular local dances and its Czech libretto at a time when German was the dominant language in Bohemia.

80 years after its première in Prague, Spanish director Carlus Padrissa stages Ernst Krenek’s Karl V. After his abdication as Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V spends his last days at a monastery in Spain where he makes his confession to a young monk and looks back on his life and decisions, trying to justify his ambitions to build a Christian empire that eventually led to the split between the Austro-German and Spanish part of the Holy Roman Empire. Krenek compares the events of the beginning of the 16th century with those in the 1930s, pointing out the dangers of political opportunism and religious and nationalistic striving, therefore breaking with conventional operatic forms – there are no arias and very little lyricism – to make every word stand out in his historical drama. Bo Skovhus takes on the challenging title role in this completely twelve-tone opera, conducted by Erik Nielsen.

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It will be interesting to see Andreas Dresen’s take on La fanciulla del West, Giacomo Puccini’s opera based at a gold mining camp at the foot of the Cloudy Mountains during the California Gold Rush in 1850. Dresen has previously staged Arabella in Munich and was celebrated for turning it into a psychological play, not shying away from social criticism. Anja Kampe stars as Minnie, John Lundgren as Jack Rance and Brandon Jovanovich as Dick Johnson, while James Gaffigan will be leading the Staatsorchester.

When Christoph Willibald Gluck published Alceste in 1769 he included a preface, setting out the principles of his operatic reforms to return opera to its origins by focusing on human drama and passions, which most notably included an overture that is linked by theme or mood to the following action. Dorothea Röschmann sings the Greek heroine Alceste who is willing to sacrifice herself for her husband Admète (Charles Castronovo). Antonello Manacorda conducts a new production by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who has previously worked with Guy Cassierts at the Staatsoper Berlin for their new Ring cycle two years ago and who has also staged a new Pelléas et Mélisande at Opera Vlaanderen earlier this year.

Krzysztof Warlikowski is no man of reticence and his new Salome in Munich will be no exception to his disturbing productions. It will be fascinating to hear Marlis Peterson – celebrated for her temptress and murderess Lulu both at The Met and in Munich – sing her first Salome. She is joined by Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke and Michaela Schuster as Herodes and Herodias respectively and Wolfgang Koch as Jochanaan.

We can certainly expect a different approach to Georg Friedrich Händel with Barrie Kosky’s Agrippina. Celebrated for his Saul at Glyndebourne, Kosky is always good for successful – albeit controversial and provocative – re-interpretations of operatic classics. Händel expert Alice Coote will lead the cast as Agrippina, which also sees Elsa Benoit as Poppea, Franco Fagioli as Nerone and Gianluca Buratto as Claudio.

Les Vêpres siciliennes
© Wilfried Hösl

The repertoire season includes revivals of this year’s new productions, including Frank Castorf’s From the House of the Dead, Les Vêpres siciliennes with Bryan Hymel, Erwin Schrott, Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Dimitri Platanias as well as Pierre Audi’s Parsifal with René Pape and Michael Nagy and Lotte de Beer’s celebrated production of Il trittico. You should keep your diary free in February to see one of today’s most sought after Carmens Gaëlle Arquez who will sing alongside Joseph Calleja’s Don José. Ermonela Jaho will certainly give another moving performance as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, while Bryn Terfel returns to Munich for The Flying Dutchman.

During the Opera Festival at the end of the season, the audience gets the chance to see, besides the new productions, Sonya Yoncheva as Norma and Jonas Kaufmann as Walther von Stolzing in Wagner’s Meistersinger. The festival programme further includes Lieder recitals with Anna Netrebko, Erwin Schrott, Marlis Petersen and Christian Gerhaher.

With the Munich première of George Balanchine’s Jewels in October, the Bayerische Staatsballett promises an exciting season that also includes John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew and tear-jerking Onegin. Christopher Wheeldon’s playful Alice in Wonderland returns as well as Portrait Wayne McGregor with three contemporary pieces. Christmas favourite The Nutcracker can be seen in a choreography by John Neumeier, whose La Dame aux Camélias is revived in January. In the yearly performance Young Choreographers, young talents are given the chance to present contemporary works created for the Bayerische Staatsballett.

Click here for full Staatsoper listings.

Click here for full Staatsballett listings.


Article sponsored by Bayerische Staatsoper